A backstroke and individual medley specialist, senior Steven Hardy has been an NCAA Division II All-American the last two years. The Salt Lake City native is ranked in UCSD’s all-time top 10 in the 100 (4th/50.49) and 200 (3rd/1:50.32) backstrokes as well as the 200 individual medley (7th/1:53.44). He’s already qualified for the 2009 NCAA Championships which will be held, March 11-14, in Houston. Now a team co-captain, Hardy is admired by those around him as much for how he goes about his business as his results. “If not the hardest working guy on the team, he’s definitely one of the top two or three,” says Assistant Coach Corrie Falcon. “And he’s very much a strong leader. Steven’s not loud, but he has a presence and I think most of the guys on the team look up to him. He’s got high expectations and if someone’s not meeting them, he’ll let them know.” With his UCSD swimming career nearing its conclusion and graduation on the horizon, Hardy took time recently to reflect and look ahead.
Q: Does it seem like your four years have gone by quickly?
HARDY: When my parents said high school goes by quickly, I was surprised by how right they were. When they told me college goes by even faster, I didn’t think it was possible until now. Now I’m in my last two quarters of school and looking back, the past four years feel like only four months. Dual meets have come and gone. Past conference championships and NCAA’s blur together as if they were one giant meet. Oh, and that whole school thing seems like it started yesterday. I still feel like I’m a freshman half the time.
Q: You’re from Salt Lake City. What motivated you to attend UC San Diego?
HARDY: The SLC. The motivation to attend UCSD came from numerous aspects of my home city. Growing up in the predominately Mormon culture of Utah, I always knew that I wanted to get out of the state for college and see what life was like outside the “bubble”. The idea of living in California always seemed like a good one, ever since I was little. When I found out that UCSD had a Division II swimming program where I could compete at NCAA’s, much less the academic reputation of the school, I was sold.
Q: From a swimming perspective, what has surprised you the most during your collegiate career?
HARDY: The most surprising thing for me and biggest change from high school was the motivation and attitude that my college teammates have compared to my high school teammates. My college teammates are highly driven, vocally encouraging and hold the same desire to improve that I do. We all have the same goals and a competitive nature, allowing us to push each other every day in practice. This change from high school to college swimming was very surprising to me especially since none of us have to be on the team, waking up at 5:00 AM every morning. Everybody chooses to.
Q: Many of your coaches and teammates comment on your “unorthodox” strokes. Describe your swimming style and why does it work for you?
HARDY: It turns out that a couple of my strokes aren’t the most technically pleasing to watch. My arms bend awkwardly on backstroke, my butterfly stroke is really short, and I more or less bob up and down on my freestyle. However, as demonstrated by my teammates and coaches, my strokes are fun to try and mimic. Although they don’t look efficient above water, I feel like what goes on underwater works well. Even though I am by no means the tallest or strongest guy in my races, I still hold my own with what I believe to be good underwater technique.
Q: What is your favorite event? Which event is the most difficult for you? In what event have you improved the most?
HARDY: My favorite event is the 100 backstroke. The 400 individual medley is the hardest event for me. I have improved the most in my 100 and 200 backstrokes since entering college. My times in these two events have dropped the most due to changes in my stroke and hard work on my under waters.
Q: How do you prepare in the hour prior to one of your races? Do you have any rituals that you follow or pre-race superstitions?
HARDY: In the hour before my races, I more or less follow the same routine. I begin by doing some warm up swimming and getting my muscles loosened and blood flowing. I then dry off and try and find a place outside the facility to stretch and get some fresh air. After that, I take some Spark (free advertisement), which helps me mentally focus and get ready for my race.
In terms of pre-race rituals, I always rub my hands on the blocks a few times before I step up on it or jump in for backstroke. This gets all the dead skin off so I feel like I have a good catch in the water. For backstroke, I randomly started my own superstition when I was younger. When I’m in the water and placing my hands on the bar, I push my right eye against my right arm and left eye against my left arm twice, just to make sure they’re on snug. Then, the race begins.
Q: What impact has the UCSD coaching staff had on your career? What does each coach bring to the team?
HARDY: The coaches have had a big impact on my career here at UCSD. They have always been very positive and supportive of my swimming. Corrie Falcon was added to the coaching staff my junior year and she’s been in charge of my stroke group mostly since then. She is very optimistic and always pushes us. Her addition to the team last year was one of the main reasons for my successes. Matt Macedo is a new addition to the team this year and his presence is already noticeable by the sprint groups times from Nike Cup. He puts an emphasis on technique and also holds a strong understanding of the sport. Like Corrie, he always remains positive and pushes us day in and day out.
Head coach Scott McGihon is in charge of everyone’s training and ultimately decides what each individual swimmer needs. He is great at motivating us and he keeps the team feeling like one. Combined, they work well with one another and are a major factor in the team’s success.
Q: Who are the “personalities” on the 2009 UCSD Swimming & Diving team?
HARDY: My roommate Pablo Carrillo is definitely one of the “personalities” this season. He adds a strong sense of humor to the team that makes workouts more bearable when they are really tough. One time, he sang a song in front of the team that involved “suggestive” dance moves and hilarious crowd participation. His weight room antics and interaction with Stacy Peterson (strength & conditioning coach) are also comical.
Q: When this year’s NCAA meet is finished, will that be it for you as far as competitive swimming is concerned?
HARDY: The NCAA’s will be the last competitive swimming I plan on doing. However, I don’t plan on giving up swimming altogether. There are master’s programs all over where old swimmers get together and have workouts made for them to stay in shape. Another option that I know some of my teammates are contemplating involve open water ocean swimming. That’s not really down my alley though. Triathlons are also an option that I am considering. But, solely competitive swimming ends in March for me.
Q: Are there things you’re looking forward to doing that have not been possible due to your swimming commitment?
HARDY: Yes. I have given up snowboarding over the past four years to make sure I don’t get injured before our championship meets in early February. My senior year of high school, a teammate of mine broke his leg skiing in early January and was unable to compete at our state championships in February. Ever since then, I have hung up my board and am now excited to get back into it. Sleeping in will be nice too.
Q: What is your favorite movie? Television show? Type of music? Sports team?
HARDY: Favorite movie-Billy Madison. Television show-Lost. Type of music-Hip-hop. Sports team-Utah Utes football.
Q: Two summers ago, you studied abroad. Where did you go and what were some of the highlights of that experience?
HARDY: The summer after my sophomore year, I studied abroad in Madrid, Spain for two months. The highlights included all the traveling we got to do across the country, the interaction with the diverse culture (I lived with a Spanish family), and the night-life that everybody—old and young—partakes in. There were also a lot of cool people from other UC’s studying in our program who made some of the traveling a little more interesting. Also, one of my friends from the swim team, Shannon Simonds, was studying in the same program with me so we both have stories that we still reminisce about with one another.
Q: You are an economics major. What are your post-graduate plans?
HARDY: I am graduating in June and plan on moving back to Salt Lake City to live in my parents’ basement. The goal is to get a job and attend graduate school in the years following.
Q: What are three things you would like to do before graduating from UC San Diego?
HARDY: Skydive, learn Japanese, and win the 50 freestyle at NCAA’s.
Previous Q & A Articles
Frank Fritsch (Men's Volleyball) January 5, 2009
Kendall Bohn (Women's Swimming) December 22, 2008
Kelvin Kim (Men's Basketball) December 15, 2008
Michelle Osier (Women's Basketball) December 5, 2008
Sylvia Schmidt (Women's Volleyball) November 7, 2008
Denny Harper (Men’s Water Polo Head Coach) October 17, 2008
Ron Larsen (USA Volleyball Assistant Coach) October 13, 2008
Jessica McGovern (Women's Soccer) October 6, 2008
Bre Schofield (Cross Country) September 26, 2008
Tony Fernandez (Men's Soccer) September 18,2008
Kimberly Carpenter (Women's Volleyball) September 12, 2008
A.J. Kotanjian (Men’s Water Polo) September 2, 2008
Peter Akman (Men's Soccer) August 21, 2008
Natasha Belak-Berger (Women's Soccer) August 15, 2008
Jake LaVieux (Men's Cross Country) August 8, 2008
Dr. Penny Rue (Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs) July 30, 2008
Michelle Torres (Women's Volleyball) July 15, 2008
Jon Pascale (Men's Soccer Head Coach) July 1, 2008
Julie Ertel (Athletics) June 16, 2008
Clint Allard (Men's Basketball) June 9, 2008
Jen Myers (Women's Crew) May 27, 2008
Casey Ryan (Men's Track and Field and Men's Basketball) May 21, 2008
Keith Noe (Baseball) May 13, 2008
Liz LaPlante (Women's Tennis Head Coach) April 30, 2008
Sydney Gstettenbauer (Women's Water Polo) April 22, 2008
Sarah Hendy (Women's Track and Field) April 17, 2008
Eric Leserman (Men's Volleyball) April 9, 2008
Danielle Lukk (Softball) April 4, 2008
Chris Franco (Baseball) March 24, 2008
Dan Perdew (Swimming) March 18, 2008
Evan Hsiao (Swimming) March 9, 2008
Eric Rubens (Men's Tennis) February 27, 2008
Melissa Ward (Softball) February 20, 2008
Cameron Sprowles (Fencing) February 13, 2008
Kim Hockett (Women's Water Polo) February 6, 2008
Trevor Decker (Baseball) January 31, 2008
Jordan Lawley (Men's Basketball) January 23, 2008
Jason Spangler (Men's Volleyball) January 5, 2008
Andrew Skewes (Men's Diving) December 26, 2007
Alexis Gaskin (Women's Basketball) December 17, 2007
Aubrey Panis (Women's Swimming) December 2, 2007
Andrew Hatch (Men's Basketball) November 26, 2007
Kevin Klein (Men's Cross Country) November 12, 2007
Kim Adams (Women's Volleyball) November 7, 2007
Ben Miller (Men's Water Polo) October 31, 2007
Alie Avina (Women's Soccer) October 19, 2007
Charity Elliott (Women's Basketball Head Coach) October 15, 2007